"an irregularly spread or scattered group or mass"

Category: Drawing

Reflecting on “Second Sources” by Genie Hien Tran at White Bear Center for the Arts

This reflection is also available as a zine.

I stopped by the opening reception for Second Sources by Genie Hien Tran at White Bear Center for the Arts. This exhibition is on view April 24-June 16, 2023 at 4971 Long Ave. White Bear Lake, MN 55110.

a drawing of a yellow gate over a photograph of medical equipment

Genie Hien Tran, “Untitled (merging)”

I was lucky to be present for the artist talk on this body of work, and one of the concepts that stood out to me was the squishiness of memories. Genie Hien Tran talked about a gate at her childhood home in Vietnam, and the struggle to remember its exact form once she discovered there were no existing photographs of it. She consulted with relatives, and there was not a consensus. Throughout the show are different interpretations of the gate, creating a visual through-line for the exhibition.

and orange bordered collage featuring hands

Genie Hien Tran, “Am Phu”

The installation choices felt precise to the concept of memory. On large collaged works, various imagery comes together in what felt like moments of potential clarity, only to scatter again into smaller component parts. Floor-to-ceiling looser drawings of the gates live next to small reproductions of identification material or historic documents related to the American war in Vietnam.

person viewing an art exhibition with large and small drawings on the wall

Genie Hien Tran, large drawing: “Remembering”, small yellow gate image: “Untitled (merging)”

In the artist talk, there was also mention of the reproduction of various specific family photographs. In some works, those reproductions are worn and battered, then glued and taped over handmade paper, which is also made of various past imagery and documents. This layering of both materials and meaning invites close and slow looking as viewers search for clues to this narrative.

hands collaged over handmade paper

Genie Hien Tran, “Touch”

This work is deeply personal and lends itself to reflecting on one’s own family, memories, loss, and reconstruction. The artist’s keen eye for color, shape, and repetition keeps viewers engaged and looking for more.

a collage with 4 copies of a father and daughter

Genie Hien Tran, “Charteuse (to hold)”

 

Disclosure: I first me Genie Hien Tran from my time in the MCAD MFA program, and we have published a conversation together on Art Sprawl.

Conversation on “Smoke and Ground” at Public Functionary

In this exchange between Anika Schneider and myself, we reflect on the group exhibition, Smoke and Ground, curated by Adrienne Doyle at Public Functionary. This show was on view October 8 – November 6, 2022.

Artists included: Alexandra Beaumont, Avery Weiler, Leon Valencia Currie, Maiya Lea Hartman, Margaret Vergara, Satya Varghese Mac, Miku, Michael Khuth, Nailah Taman, Nicole Stiegart, nouf saleh, Patricio DeLara, Raye Cordes, Silent Fox, Sabrina Ford.

Check out this reflection in zine format.

hanging fabric dancers

ALEXANDRA BEAUMONT, “Dancing with Friends 1 – 3” (2022) Various textiles

EM: The details felt like a really key element that ties this group exhibition together, whether that was specific moments in paintings, mindful choices in object construction, or repeated items in collage/assemblage works, etc. what were some of the most striking details to you and why?

figure study on post it

PATRICIO DELARA, Figure study on post-it (2022)

AS: For me some of the most striking details were revealed in the shifts of scale between the pieces. Beaumont’s monumental figures danced next to Delara’s study of figures on a post it note, further reducing Delara’s figures within their pastel piece (on view next to the post it). This juxtaposition of a seemingly small detail of a post it note study used something of a very small scale, tacked like a note to the wall, to draw me in closely. Upon turning around and viewing Beaumont’s dancing figures, I had to first step back to take in the details, but then also step forward to understand the various textiles and stitches. This rhythm of stepping closely and stepping back was necessary to unlock the details within the exhibition. Other details that struck me through this process were saleh’s structural wood element and the hard objects embedded within Taman’s piece.

wooden sculpture with cyanotypes

nouf saleh “Goree, Ethiopia” (2022) Cyanotype, watercolor paper, cedar wood sculpture

EM: As the curatorial statement shares, memories and landscape are central to this exhibition, and I know memory has been a key part of your creative practice too. I wonder if there were specific pieces that resonated based on use of memory?

objects embedded in plastic

NAILAH TAMAN, “Taeta’s Tabletent” (2022) Ancestral cloth, cherished blanket, found objects, epoxy

AS: Taman’s Teata’s Tabletent and Varghese Mac’s A series of forms to keep our skin intact both especially resonated with me. Taman’s piece, for me, beautifully displays how objects hold memories and can be put away and not thought about but also a stagnant presence in our memories. Like my own work, Taman has recreated this handed down object to explore their own identity in connection to ancestral lineage. Varghese Mac’s piece mirrored how both personal and societal memory functions. Concrete, something initially flexible and changing, can solidify to serve a specific purpose. Our memories also transform and adapt to fit purposeful narratives to understand ourselves. Varghese Mac’s etched images on the concrete are subtle and eroded enough to feel like a deep cultural memory, seeming to suggest how solid concrete will one day crumble following the cycle of memory.

etched concrete image of a hand

SATYA VARGHESE MAC, “A series of forms to keep our skin intact” (2022) Light etched concrete, iron and titanium oxides, mustard seed oil

EM: Texture was an important formal component across several works, whether is the juicy piled painted borders of Maiya Lea Hartman’s painting, the hanging layered fiber work of Alexandra Beaumont, or the etched concrete of Satya Varghese Mac, among many others. Where did texture stand out? Or was there a different key formal element to you?

painting of pairs of sisters

MAIYA LEA HARTMAN, “Sisters 4 Life” (2022) Acrylic, oil, paper on wood pane

AS: Within the exhibition, texture stood out in the woven layered collage like elements of many of the pieces. This served to give the exhibition an overall texture. Many of the pieces seemed to be fitting parts together as a whole and this element served to bring all of the pieces in the exhibition together, whole. Ford’s The Beginning of it All, is a painting rich in surface pattern which brings a textural element into the painting. The painting canvas itself seemed raw and was forced into the frame, embracing wrinkles in the canvas adding an unexpected textural element. Khuth’s photographic collages, Small Ruptures, paired smoothness of skin and a silky blue backdrop with textural wrinkles of fabric and jewelry which emitted the feeling of warm metal on skin. This pairing in the collage reflected many of the textural variations of the exhibition.

a painting of a figure with a vase and snake

SABRINA FORD, “The Beginning of it All” (2022) Acrylic, oil pastel on canvas

collage of two figures

MICHAEL KHUTH, “Small Ruptures” (2022) Paper, tape

Disclosure: I know Anika Schneider from when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD.

Conversation on “HERE BEFORE” by Mike Marks at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory

In this short conversation reflecting on the exhibition, HERE BEFORE – Woodcuts and Drawings by Mike Marks, Shirin Ghoraishi and Ellen Mueller pose questions for one another after viewing Mike Marks‘ work. This show runs September 16 – October 22, 2022 at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory, 775 Lake St E, Wayzata, MN 55391.

For all reviews, there is an accompanying  printed zine.

halftone close up

Fast Water Moving Still [detail] (2022) woodcut on paper, edition of 8

EM: What drew you to this exhibition?

SG: I’ve always been drawn to the concept of memory and space, preservation of an experience. The combination of printmaking and digital representations of nature is initially what I was drawn to. But beyond that as an audience I look for a personal connection and how I am immersed in a work of art.  What I search for in a work of art is to comfort me, challenge me or educate me. I find comfort in the fog and hazinees aesthetic of Mike Marks. The grayishness of his work conveys sinking in a faded memory that is emerging, soon to be remembered. The landscapes can be anywhere and anytime or for me I just made a connection to an invented memory from my imagination as a child daydreaming in a class.

a night sky

The Endless Glowing Hours (Green) (2022) woodcut on paper, edition of 10

SG: What was the first thing you noticed about his work?And do you know why you noticed that?

EM: The first thing I noticed were the repeated mark-making elements, almost like the artist was developing an alphabet for a visual language. I saw the perforations, the wood cut grids acting as a type of halftone pattern, the gestural graphite designating vegetation, and areas with powdered material.

rapids

Landshaper Rapids II (2022) woodcut on Kozo paper, edition of 10

EM: Were there any stand-out or favorite works in the exhibition for you? And if yes, which ones and why?

SG: Yes, My favourite is Land Shaper (Rapids II). It Stand-out to me  as a mystery that I had to step back and get away from to see the picture and for it to reveal itself. A form of engagement and a sense of control that I felt more with this artwork.

arrows on a gray background

Stream Drop [detail] (2022) graphite and perforations on paper

SG: What does his work make you think of?

EM: I spent a lot of time thinking about air or atmosphere or wind, and it was because of the perforation lines made of dots that either remained visibly white in fields of darkness, or caught dark pigment as they scattered across white negative spaces. While sometimes they created recognizable shapes (arrows, etc.), I was most intrigued by areas where the perforations simply provided texture, such as where there were repeated vertical marks made by the tool.

view of a river

River Glare [detail] (2022) graphite, colored pencil, and perforations on paper

EM: If you could ask the artist any question, what would it be and why?

SG: While making this body of work did he get any result he did not intend for, if so what was it?

icy landscape in gray

Icy Flow [detail] (2022) graphite, gouache, ink, and perforations on paper

SG: Thinking about the show, what do you remember after a week? Why do you think you remember what you did?

EM: A week later, the idea of landscape sticks with me the most, likely because I think a lot about landscape in general, and in connection to issues of climate change and habitat loss.

Disclosure: I know Shirin Ghoraishi from when I was directing the MFA program at MCAD; she was a 2020 graduate.

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